Although these lines won’t reach readers until after the event, in real time they are written prior to the November 8 presidential election. The voting won’t affect what is said because neither of the major-party candidates, not the one who can’t be trusted nor the other who is corrupt, is a person a Catholic would want for U.S. President, not a Catholic who understands that the laws of a nation should buttress Christian living, not militate against it – the kind of laws that existed when Christendom did and Jesus Christ was recognized as King of society.
From the point of view of such a Catholic the ideal presidential candidate would be one who campaigned for an end to legal abortion on demand, no-fault divorce and same-sex marriage, among other things.
Of course such a candidate is inconceivable today. No fringe party would nominate him or her, let alone the Democrats or Republicans. If one did, he or she would not be elected. The American people, to the extent such a people can still be said to exist, aren’t that Christian anymore. Modernity has them too strongly by the throat.
They aren’t unique in this respect. Though Russia is the one major country left in the world in which Christianity plays a visible role in its public life, a poll a few days ago showed seventy percent of Russians opposed to making abortion illegal. This even after the head of their Church, Patriarch Kiril, went before the State Duma (parliament) to appeal to legislators for it.
In Catholic Poland, leaders of the governing Law and Justice Party let it be known in early October that they planned to introduce legislation that would outlaw all abortion for any reason, including the life of the mother, but backed down when thousands of women went into the streets of Warsaw and other major cities to protest.
Is there any country where women wouldn’t protest against such a law, or where the government wouldn’t knuckle under when they did? Not these days. These days are dark and promise to become darker (the choice facing voters on the 8th testifies to that). Will Christians ever see light again? France’s great nineteenth-century prelate Cardinal Pie knew when they would.
Our Lord as King of society has had few champions as fervent as Louis-Eduard-Desire Cardinal Pie (1815-1880) who was made Bishop of Poitiers, and thus a successor of Saint Hilary, in 1849. Though he remained in that see until the end of his life, his influence was national. It was his initiative that led to the construction on Montmartre in Paris of the Shrine of the Sacred Heart (Sacre Coeur) in expiation for the Revolution of 1789 and the sin of liberalism. The old Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) has this to say of him: “Regarding as futile the compromises accepted by other Catholic leaders, he fought alike all philosophical theories and political arrangements that did not come up to the full traditional Catholic standard.”
By 1848, when he was still vicar general of Chartres, political arrangements in France since the Revolution had included the First Republic, the Directorate, the Consulate, the First Empire, the Restoration, the liberal monarchy of King Louis-Philippe I, and now a Second Republic (which would be transformed in four years into the Second Empire). At a ceremony in Chartres in 1848, Cardinal Pie said: “Do you know why during the past half century we have seen perish among us every form of government, including that to which we are returning today? I am going to tell you. All these forms by which society has dressed itself have perished because, beneath the forms, a soul was lacking. Now, it may be wonderfully provided with joints and a network of muscles, but a body without a soul is a cadaver, and it is the fate of a cadaver eventually to fall apart. The soul of every human society is belief, doctrine, religion, God. Our modern societies have been too long divorced from God.”
In 1856, by which time the Second Empire had come into being, Cardinal Pie was received in audience by Emperor Napoleon III. The meeting was notable for a particular exchange between the two men. In effect, the great prelate was lecturing the Emperor on the kind of measures that would be enacted by a government if it recognized Our Lord as the true ruler of society. Did Monseigneur really believe, Napoleon asked, that enactment of such measures would be “timely”? The measures would have been for that day and age like laws today that would protect the lives of preborn babies, the indissolubility of marriage, and the union of one man with one woman as the foundation of the family, the basic unit of society.
“Sire,” Cardinal Pie answered, “if the time has not come for Christ to reign, then the time has not come for governments to last.”
The Second Empire would disappear in 1871, replaced by the Third Republic. It has been followed by a fourth and, since 1958, a fifth.
Oblivious of history as are most Americans, most are barely conscious of changes in their own past that have been every bit as momentous; how, for instance, the original republic, a confederation of sovereign states, disappeared with Union victory in the war of 1861-65; how the new republic with political power concentrated in central government in Washington was further transformed in the early twentieth century by enactment of a graduated income tax, women’s suffrage, the popular election of U.S. Senators and other revolutionary measures; how by the 1950s U.S. presidents could and would dispense with the Constitution to launch the nation’s wars; how by last year the once-vaunted “system of checks and balances” didn’t stop the Supreme Court from deciding by itself that the practice of sodomy is a basis for legal marriage.
It’s all been downhill and was bound to be. Divorced from God, aiming to fulfill the ancient dream of Eden to be “as gods” deciding for themselves what is good and what is evil instead of living according to His will, Americans and other modern peoples had only one direction they could go, and have hailed every hellward step as “progress”. November 8 won’t be the end of the march. That end won’t arrive until Our Lord is recognized again as the true ruler of society, as He was when Christendom existed, the thousand years when government did last; and evidently the time for that has not come, not yet.
When will it? God knows. What to do until the great day comes and perhaps even hasten it? We must pray, find a decent Mass for worship, learn teaching that too often is untaught, raise our children according to it and, since the larger society offers us no support, help one another morally and materially toward sanctification as best we can.